Can I Change My Employees’ Schedules at any Time to Account for the Ebb and Flow of Customers During the Week?

Q.     I operate a very successful chain of surf shops located throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley, called “1 Earthquake Away.” [1]  In addition to traditional surf attire and boards, we also sell wakeboards and stand-up paddle boards which are popular at the nearby lakes.  Being a good distance from the beach, you wouldn’t think it but my business is greatly affected by the weather.  When it gets really–really–hot in the Valley, people take off for the weekend to the coast, and my stores are busy on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  When it is not too hot, people stick around and head to the lake, so my stores are busy on Fridays and Saturdays.  As such, depending on the weather, my store can be flat either mid-week or on the weekends.  I am not a weatherman, so scheduling my employees can be a difficult task.  Is there any requirement that says I can’t change my employees’ schedules at any time to account for the ebb and flow of customers during the week?

A.     So long as the employees don’t actually arrive at the store (in which case you may be subject to reporting time pay), there is currently no requirement that you provide any sort of advanced notice to your employees.  They can simply be scheduled or rescheduled on an as needed basis.  However, that could change.  Last week the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee passed AB 357 that would subject food and general retail establishments of a certain size to penalties for changing an employee’s schedule.  Under the current draft, any employer in the food and general retail business with 500 or more employees and 10 or more establishments will be required to pay the following penalties: one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay, if notice of a schedule change is communicated less than seven days in advance but at least 24 hours’ notice is given; two hours of pay at the employee’s regular hourly rate for each shift of four hours or less if less than 24 hours’ notice of a change of schedule is given; and four hours of pay at the employee’s regular hourly rate for each shift of more than four hours if less than 24 hours’ of notice is given to the employee.  AB 357 also potentially creates a new protected class and a new leave of absence requirement for employers.    The progress of this bill should be watched as closely as your surf reports.  This potential new requirement would put a significant burden on California employers.  And, while I imagine it is hard enough to operate surf shops over 100 miles from the ocean, my guess is that it would be harder in Nevada.  Like Banzai Pipeline hard.  [2] Furthermore, while the current version of the law is limited to larger employers, if passed, an amended version may be broader or it could be expanded in later years.  While employers watch the progress of this bill, employees will be watching the beach and relaxing with their newly acquired benefit from last year’s legislature – paid sick leave. Surf’s up!

[1] Unfortunately, according to science (or at least NBC) Fresno will never be a coastal city.   http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Will-California-Fall-Into-the-Ocean-119434794.html

[2] http://surf.transworld.net/1000074837/features/top-ten-deadly-waves-of-the-world/hard.

This Legal Update / Bulletin is for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The hypothetical question is posed to illustrate a point and does not contemplate all potential legal considerations This update should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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